Before there was Family Guy or Fairly Oddparents, there was a Polar Bear, Alligator, and Ostrich trying to make it in the human world. Seth MacFarlane & Butch Hartman have always been close friends with successful shows in the animation industry. The recurring Family Guy character Dr. Elmer Hartman was inspired by Butch’s birth name, which is Elmer Earl “Butch” Hartman IV. Another interesting fact layed on you! The animation duo also worked on the Johnny Bravo staff together at Cartoon Network, until the entire cast including them were let go after the first season.
“…it was October 1997 and I was working on Johnny Bravo at Cartoon Network with a guy named Seth MacFarlane. The first season of Johnny Bravo was over and it was unclear whether there would be a 2nd season so we –the entire staff – were let go.
– Butch Hartman told OtakusandGeeks.com, April 2013
It’s great to know Butch and Seth formed a bond, and ended up working on an animated short for Oh Yeah! Cartoons together the following year.
Zoo Mates was created and written by Seth MacFarlane, and animated and drawn by Butch Hartman. It debuted in September 1998 and it’s not like other animated shorts. It features a laugh track, which is so unfitting for a cartoon by the way. I guess ideas seem good until you hear them out loud? Unlike the laugh track, the plot is very entertaining and so are the characters. An animal activist named Helen is calling for the Zoo to be shutdown, because her animal rights group believes they are cruel and inhumane. The Zookeeper makes her an offer she can’t refuse, which is that if she can take in three animals and prove that they are fit to live in human society, then the zoo will be shutting down. Helen is up for the offer and meets Mark the Polar Bear, Paul the Alligator, and Warren Ostrich. She takes them back to her home and tests their human living. Are they up for the challenge?
It’s unknown whether this was a pilot pitch or just a one-time project, but it sure is worth the watch. Knowing that both Hartman and MacFarlane went on and created bigger and more famous cartoons just proves that you don’t have to start at the top, but it’s where you go from there.